Why Do People Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

It is not uncommon to hear of or know people that sleep with their eyes open. In fact, it is quite a common condition, and some experts claim that it may affect anywhere between four and twenty percent of the general population.Some said that it must be for tiredness but some claimed the difference between tired and sleepy. This condition is also known as nocturnal lagophthalmos, and most of the reports indicate that it affects children mostly. However, some experts think that this is just because children are more observed as they sleep than adults.

At times the pupils will be partially covered, but in some instances, they will not have any covering at all which may make some people look like they are dead. Although it does not pose any serious risk, sleeping with your eyes open can cause you to develop dry eyes and even blur your vision when you wake up.

So why do people sleep with their eyes open?

1. Facial Nerve Paralysis​

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Paralysis of the nerves in the face is a leading cause of nocturnal lagophthalmos. This nerve condition means that your eyelids will not close well. And in some cases, they will not close at all. Stroke is a common cause of facial nerve paralysis, but some people are still able to close their eyes even after suffering a stroke. Apart from damage to the nerves, a malposition of the eyelids might also prevent a full closure as you sleep and in such cases, surgery might be necessary to correct the anomaly.

2. It Might Be Hereditary​

Why Do People Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Research shows that the inability to close the eyes during sleep can be genetic. If one or both your parents have this problem, you are at more risk of developing it during your childhood or even as an adult. And just like many other hereditary conditions, it is possible for the condition to affect only one gender in the family.

Some kids that inherit the problem from their parents can grow out of it, but for others, it is not easy. However, whether the condition is hereditary or not there are many remedies that you can use to rectify it or to ensure that it does not affect the quality of sleep that you get.

3. Skin Condition​

Some skin conditions will attack every inch of skin in your body including your eyelids. Some severe skin problems like ichthyosis can cause nocturnal lagophthalmos. Although research is still not very conclusive on the relationship between the two conditions there is enough evidence to show that this common skin problem can keep your eyes open when sleeping. One of the possible reasons for this is the fact that ichthyosis thickens the skin and causes it to develop scales all of which may make it hard for the eyelids to close.

4. Some People Train Their Body And Mind To Do It​

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Whereas for most individuals sleeping with the eyes open is something that they cannot control, for others it is a result of training their body and mind to do it. People that master the art or science of meditation are more likely to sleep with their eyes open because they can control their mind and body better than other people.

If you want to learn how to sleep with your eyes open, it would be a good idea to master different meditation techniques. But, the basics of doing it entail relaxing your body, concentrating on your breathing, focusing on a fixed point and letting your mind wander as you slowly drift into sleep.

5. Short And Weak Eyelids​

Why Do People Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Some people have eyelids that are shorter than usual at birth but because they also have small eyes it is hard to notice. During childhood, they will not have any problem with closing their eyes as they sleep because the eyelids are long enough to cover their small eyes.

However, as they grow up the shortness of their eyelids will become more evident as they will not appear to develop at the same speed as their eyes and the rest of their body. At some point, they will become too short to cover their eyes as they sleep.

Also, some individuals tend to have weak eyelids that cannot close normally. In some incidents, it might be necessary to implant gold weights in the eyelids to help them close as you sleep and to ensure proper blinking.

6. Cosmetic Surgery

Why Do People Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Cosmetic surgeries are very common nowadays and having one can result to nocturnal lagophthalmos. An operation that involves altering the appearance of your facial skin by tightening of loosening it will also affect your eyelids, and it might make them weaker or shorter than before which might affect their ability to close as you sleep.

Also, some people will also go for surgeries to change the appearance of their eyes which may also make them sleep with the eyes open. Facial reconstructive surgeries that follow accidents can also lead to lagophthalmos.

7. Thyroid Disease and Bell’s Palsy

There is still a lot of research required for scientists and other experts to understand nocturnal lagophthalmos well. The limited studies available do not offer a comprehensive list of all possible reasons why some people sleep with their eyes open.

However, some recent findings indicate that it can be one of the effects of thyroid disease or Bell's palsy. But it is critical to note that even though there are recorded cases of people who develop nocturnal lagophthalmos as a result of either of the two, there is still not enough information on just why this happens.


Sleeping with your eyes open might be weird and can also be scary for some people. But apart from making your eyes dry and causing a little blurriness in the morning, there are no adverse health consequences that can come from this condition. But in some rare cases, you might also experience scarring and infection.

It is also vital to grasp that sometimes the inability of your eyes to close as you sleep can be an indication of an underlying problem such as your eyelids being too short or malpositioned. And so it is always a good idea to visit an ophthalmologist for an evaluation.

The exposure of the eye to the elements or atmosphere as you sleep will cause dry eyes, and so it is always a good idea to apply some lubricant ointment before you sleep and in the morning. Some artificial tears can also help to keep the eyes wet as you snooze.

The bottom line is that you can live with this condition but if it causes other problems like affecting your eyesight and sleep you should talk to an expert to avoid development of severe health issues.

  • Jane
  • Updated April 9, 2018

I am Jane Collins, a Founder and a Main Editor of g9sleeptight.com. I decided to create this site to share my knowledge, guides and tips to help you to have a good night's sleep.

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